It is critical for all of us who are involved in the project of building independent people’s movements to discuss in- depth and width the meaning of the concepts/ notions such as movement, what does that entail, food security and the ecosystem and the context in general.
The dispossession of the majority by the colonialists had inevitably produced two classes; the propertied (oppressor) and the unpropertied (oppressed). The difference in the lifestyle between two classes is self-evident. The oppressors can easily be identifiable, they are the ones who own all the means of production; they won land, mineral resources, space and sea, they have all the fun, riding around in big cars and living it up in luxury hotels, it is the oppressors who, after all, control corporate decision –making, the government apparatus, the media, the police.
The oppressed are easily to find – are those who are poor, penniless and voiceless. They are usually rank and –file workers, poor farmers, they live in slums where poverty is rife, they are confronted with food insecurity and food in sovereignty, running sweatshops and swet and dry in the fields across the land and they are underpaid and their communities are deliberately underdeveloped. For not only the oppressed are materially poor, they are also poor in power. They vastly outnumber the oppressors, but in their disorganized condition they lack power to oppose the enemy. By themselves, the poor and landless people and workers are no match for the oppressor in terms of money or resources.
Roles of organizers:
• The organizers must organize people everywhere on the basis of their real and felt problems
• Organize them to confront the oppressor and win victories now
• There are a great many pressing problems around which the oppressed can be organized. The poor suffer from sub-human housing, an utter lack of essential services, ownership of and access and control to land and other natural resources. In many commercial farms farm-workers face eviction by white land grabbers, and workers are faced with the deliberate policy of low wages in the name of export competitiveness.
• They are needed to channel the people’s discontent and aspirations into a practical effort because the oppressed are slow in organizing themselves.
• The aims of organizing people for power, then, are two- folds; to achieve a liberation of consciousness and the creation of actual instruments of power, power as applied to the present unjust situation is the means by which the people can find redress for their grievances and act against those conditions that oppress and dehumanize them.
• The organizers task is to assist in building open, democratic, people’s organisations that can then choose the national program or ideology they want.
• S/he must have a basic faith in the poor’s inherent capacity to fight for their own liberation
• The organizer in order to counteract the false concern for law and order, S/he should devise tactics that are slightly outside the law, especially tactics that make the oppressor look ridiculous. This throws the enemy off balance and unmasks his posturing.
• The organizer should not idealize the people and blind himself to some of the negative aspects of their continued dehumanization. In order to change these mistaken attitudes, it is important to recognize them. What are some of these:
1. The oppressed look-down on themselves and avoid making their decisions. Hence the organizers find the oppressed initially reluctant to engage in conflict-confrontation against their oppressors.
2. The oppressed oppress each other. Organizers commonly experience that people will turn to violence on each other more readily than they will turn on outside oppressors. One way to counteract this is to direct violence from one’s neighbours and toward an outside enemy. “Give the inhabitants of the tower of Babel a common enemy and they will learn to speak a common language”. NB.
3. The oppressed sometimes yield to opportunism – even when they have started to struggle on a problem, individual leaders and members may give in to the temptation of immediate personal gain at the expense of the people as a whole. The oppressors do all they can to create opportunities for this, for example, they give money or benefits to the leaders.
All agitation and mobilization of the people should sooner or late expose the oppressor for what he is, without disguises. One exposed, he becomes vulnerable to the people’s resistance and demands. The oppressor employs tactics to hide his true in self in order to disarm the oppressed. Here are some of its common tactics:
1. The oppressor seeks to maintain a benevolent and spectacle image- he does this to remove possible guilt feelings or uneasiness on his part, and to prevent the oppressed from resisting. A common technique of the oppressor is to disarm the people during a confrontation by serving them coffee and sandwiches
2. The oppressor maintains a distance from the people through buffers. The buffer may be a secretary, a company lawyer, etc. One common element is that these buffers are not authorized to make a decision. Their job is to keep people at a distance. The oppressor use these buffers because of fear of being confronted with his own unjustifiable actions.
3. The oppressor always invokes law and order. Since big-businessmen, landlords and government officials control the system of laws, courts and enforcement agencies, it is only natural that they insist that the oppressed follow the rules of this system. The oppressor tries to hide behind the letter of the law, often ignoring the spirit. He wants the people to play the bureaucratic game, where he can maneuver and delay. They tell the people to use the proper channels, to observe legal niceties and bureaucratic procedure.
4. The oppressor uses the carrot and the sticks to divide the people. The oppressor tries to bribe the people in indirect ways. To sweeten a demolition of squatter houses, the oppressor might offer jobs or medical aid to needy relatives of the leaders. One particular malicious tactic is to offer the jobless people in the area the job of demolishing houses in another area
5 Basic organizing principles
1. The establishment gives us all the opportunity or ammunition needed to radicalize the people. The establishment makes all kinds of promises and declarations to the people which it is not willing to fulfill. It does oppress the people. By making the establishment live up to its promises, you can beat it to death with its own book of rules
2. Tactics against the oppressor should be within the experience of the oppressed, and outside the experience of the oppressor
3. People generally act on the basis of their self-interest.
4. The process of organizing moves from simple, concrete, short-term and personal issues to more complex, abstract, long-term and systemic issues.
5. Through the organizing process, the people must make their own decision.
Community organizing is to build people’s organizations for national transformation by enabling people to have a hand in making decisions that affect their lives. It is integrally linked to the struggles of the oppressed. It cannot be separated from the national movements for total liberation. It also seeks to change the present unjust, social, economic and political structures.
“What is the relationship between the open, free, democratic people’s organisations and larger national movements?